The 1980s was a strange decade all around. Bad hair, bad styles and yes, bad cars dominated the decade. Although they were maybe ‘right for their time’, no one lusts over vintage Plymouth Reliants. There is not an active Ford Tempo restoration club. The Hyundai Pony… well, I don’t really want to get into that one. The 1980s started out feeling the after effects of the 1970s oil crisis with slow heavy cars dominating the landscape and a few lightweights sprinkled here and there. But by the end of the decade, fire breathers like the Corvette ZR-1, Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo and Porsche 911 were establishing a new era of performance. However, there are some vehicles that defined the 1980s for better or for worse. In the 1980s, the 11 vehicles below were the ones everyone dreamt about, wanted, owned, or pretended to own.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Lamborghini Countach. Click image to enlarge

Lamborghini Countach
The Lamborghini Countach represented the epitome of excess in the 1980s. What 11-year-old boy (or girl) did not have one these posters in their room in 1985? The 5.2L V12 was an impressive motor for its time and still sounds fantastic to this day. Best looking Lamborghini of all time? Well that is a debate all on its own, but the Countach should be in the running for that title.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Delorean DMC-12. Click image to enlarge

Delorean DMC-12
Failing as both a car and a company, the Delorean will never be forgotten thanks to its immortalization in the “Back to the Future” movie franchise. This stainless steel wonder was a beast to drive and not nearly as sporty as its shape would suggest. The original V6 was slow, when it was actually working. The car has created one of the biggest cult followings in automotive history and features some of the most creative engine swaps this side of a flux capacitor.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Chevrolet Camaro IROC. Click image to enlarge

Chevrolet Camaro IROC
The IROC jokes are everywhere. It is sad that this car’s reputation has been ruined by a certain ‘personality type’ being so fond of them. It truly was a performance bargain back in its day. Some pristine examples can still be seen driving around our roads in the summer. To this day, whenever I hear Trooper’s ‘Boys in the Bright White Sports Car’ I picture someone in an IROC cruising down the road, T-Tops off, blasting this Canadian classic.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Honda CR-X. Click image to enlarge

Honda CR-X
Although not the original hot hatch, the CR-X can be credited with starting the front-wheel-drive tuner scene in the late 1990s. Small, cheap, lightweight and easy to work on, these cars could become real racetrack terrors for little money. The car had such a great reputation amongst the Honda community that a new hybrid version was released in 2011. CR-Xs can still be seen at local track events to this day.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Buick Regal – Grand National. Click image to enlarge

Buick Regal – Grand National
The Grand National can only be described as a monster. With a turbocharged 3.8L V6, the amount of torque this car made in GNX trim was not equalled by anything else on the road in 1987. This car was the 1980s’ version of a Muscle Car; a big engine stuffed in a mid-size sedan. Low mileage examples of the GNX have become ridiculously pricey, but a modified T-Type or ‘regular’ Grand National can still be had at a reasonable price.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Pontiac Fiero. Click image to enlarge

Pontiac Fiero
The Fiero was originally designed to be a commuter car, not a sports car. After some initial bad press for engine fires, the Fiero GT V6 started to become a premier budget sports car by the end of the 1980s; but then it was suddenly killed off. Conspiracy theorists to this day swear it was due to the Fiero’s performance getting far too close to that of GMs golden child, the Corvette.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Ferrari Testarossa. Click image to enlarge

Ferrari Testarossa
The Testarossa was the Countach’s equal when it came to 1980s dream cars. These two Italian heavyweights spent most of the 1980s vying for the crown of ‘most coveted exotic car’. Yes the Porsche 959 would most likely beat either in a race, but it lacked the over-the-top flair of these two V12 coupes. When all is said and done though, any of the three would be a dream.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Ford Mustang. Click image to enlarge

Ford Mustang
Who didn’t own a Fox-body Mustang, want a Fox Body Mustang or know someone who owned a Fox Body Mustang? Starting life in the late ’70s and continuing into the 1990s, these little Pony cars will forever be remembered as the 5 point 0 Mustangs, even if their engines were really 4.9 L in displacement. The 1984 Turbocharged 4-cylinder SVO Mustang was way ahead of its time and still ultra-cool to this day.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Dodge Magic Wagon/Plymouth Voyager. Click image to enlarge

Dodge Magic Wagon/Plymouth Voyager
As much as you hate to admit it, you probably at some point drove in a Voyager or a Magic Wagon in the 1980s. This new concept, dubbed ‘The Minivan’, revolutionized the automotive landscape in the 1980s. By the mid 1990s, there was scarcely a family that didn’t own a minivan. Although they have fallen out of favour recently due to the popularity of SUVs and crossovers, there is a new breed of mini-minivans out there ready to take over once again.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Audi Quattro Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Audi Quattro Coupe
Maybe not the first AWD Sports car, the Audi Quattro showed the world in the early 1980s just what a lightweight car with AWD and a big turbocharger could do. Dominating rally racing for years, the Quattro was not a car to be messed with on or off the road. Cars such as the Subaru WRX STI, Mitsubishi EVO and the early 1990s Toyota Celica WRC can thank this car for their existence.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Merkur XR4Ti. Click image to enlarge

Merkur XR4Ti
An oddball car, the Merkur XR4Ti was a rebadged European market Ford Sierra XR4i. The car featured a turbocharged 4-cylinder that drove the rear wheels through either a three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. The car only lasted 5 model years before being discontinued at the end of 1989. This is another car with a dedicated cult following.

Feature: 12 Icons of the 1980s motoring memories classic cars
Porsche 959. Click image to enlarge

Porsche 959
This was the Bugatti Veyron of the 1980s. The supercar all other supercars were compared to. Featuring a 2.85L horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, the 1,450-kg 959 sent 444 hp to all four wheels and proved to the world what all-wheel drive could do on a track when used right. Also like the Veyron, these cars were very limited in production numbers and a rare sight to see.

What do you think of our list? Did we miss any? Should any be removed? Let us know in the autos.ca online forum.




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.